EPIPHANY EVENING PRAYER
The name “Epiphany” is derived from a Greek word meaning “manifestation” or appearing.” Anglican Prayer Books interpret the word with an alternative title, “The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” A Christian observance on January 6 is found as early as the end of the second century in Egypt. The feast combined commemorations of the visit of the Magi, led by the star of Bethlehem; the Baptism of the Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan; and Jesus’ first recorded miracle, the changing of water into wine at the marriage of Cana of Galilee – all thought of as manifestations of the incarnate Lord.
Join us for Evening Prayer on the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, when we will pray:
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
THE FEAST OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI & THE BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS
Saint Francis was born in Italy in the town of Assisi around 1181. He was the only child of a prosperous cloth merchant, and grew up among the privileged sons of the town’s wealthy families. His youth was given over to a lively social life and dreams of knighthood to be won in the city’s wars. He returned from his military service a changed man, and withdrew from his friends and former amusements in search of a new life. While praying in the ruined church of San Damiano, he heard the words: “Francis, rebuild my Church which you see falling down.” He began to rebuild the church with his own hands, begging in the streets for building supplies. This public humiliation led to a permanent break with his father.
Francis gave away to the poor everything he had ever received from his family. He embraced the poverty of the gospel, “sell what thou hast, give to the poor, and come and follow Me.” Francis soon discovered that his calling was not to renew merely a church, but the Church. Others soon joined Francis, many from the elite sons of the city, and a community of brothers–friars–formed around him. Stories of miracles, many involving his affection for animals, began to surround Francis.
In 1210, Pope Innocent III recognized Francis’ community Rule. By the time of his death, there were over 10,000 Franciscan brothers spread across Europe. The greater Franciscan community included a women’s Second Order nicknamed the “Poor Clares” after Saint Clare, the first Franciscan sister, and for the first time in history a Third Order with a simple Rule adapted for regular lay people committed to service, charity, and simplicity of life. Francis was popularly acclaimed a saint in his own lifetime, and formally canonized a year after his death in 1226.
Every year on the Sunday after the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi ( October 4), we bless the animals and pray:
Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may, for love of you, delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Agricultural festivals are of great antiquity, and common to many religions. Among the Jews, the three pilgrimage feasts, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, each had agricultural significance. Medieval Christianity also developed a number of such observances. Our own Thanksgiving Day finds its roots in observances begun by colonists in Massachusetts and Virginia, a tradition later taken up and extended to the whole of the new American nation by action of the Continental Congress.
Join us in November on the evening before Thanksgiving Day for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, which we begin with this prayer:
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.